Bangladesh recorded their first ever win against Sri Lanka in a T20I on Sunday, and will now fancy their chances of making the final. Sri Lanka, minus Lasith Malinga, struggled with both bat and ball, and need to lift their game if they are to live up to their reputation as T20 World Champions.
Here are the biggest talking points from the game:
Sabbir the Machine:
What do you do when both batsmen before you, the two openers, have been dismissed for a duck on a good batting pitch? What do you do after you have been involved in the run out of one of the team’s senior players?
Simple. You show the openers how it’s done. You make sure the senior player has nothing to complain about. You go on to score your personal best, at a blistering rate, and almost eclipse the highest T20I score by any batter from your team. You go out and win the match for your team. That’s what you do.
Such were the mental battles that Sabbir Rahman had to win, and then the battles against the opposition bowlers. He handled both with disarming ease, en route to scoring the bulk of Bangladesh’s runs, and helping them do something they had never done before: beat Sri Lanka in a T20I.
Despite the batsmen around him coming and going, he batted like an automaton, unfazed by the inevitable emotion of the run out of Mushfiqur Rahim. He plundered 18 runs in the fourth over against Kulasekara, with an effortless lift that went for six over mid on being the standout shot. Then he took 14 off Perera, with his favourite pull in action, to give Bangladesh’s power play some respectability and repair the damage the early wickets had caused. Much like Virat Kohli in the game against Pakistan, when Sabbir was on strike, it looked like a different game altogether. That in just 17 T20Is he has earned such comparisons tells you what kind of form he is in. He cashed in on it, ably supported by Shakib Al Hasan, to form the backbone of the Bangladesh innings. To give you an idea of the weight of his contribution, when he was dismissed for 80 (54 balls) in the 16th over, Bangladesh’s total was just 108.
Shakib is back:
Sri Lanka will be disappointed that they could not capitalise after having the Tigers at 26 for three in the fifth over, despite Lasith Malinga not playing. But Shakib made sure they did not implode, with a gritty 32 off 34, and Mahmudullah once again did his growing reputation of a finisher no harm, with 23 off 12 to give Bangladesh something to bowl at. Shakib seemed to carry the confidence his batting gave him into his bowling, as he combined with Mahmudullah to strangle Sri Lanka in the middle overs.
The scorecard is a liar, and Mortaza is a fox:
If one goes by the scoreboard alone, the Al-Amin Hossain (3-34) will stand out as Bangladesh’s MVP in the bowling effort. In truth, it was Mashrafe Mortaza. Not through his bowling (though his 1-19 was the most economical return for his side), but through his captaincy. Sri Lanka were off to a decent start, courtesy the Sri Lankaippery fingers (pun intended) of Soumya Sarkar who dropped the in form Chandimal second ball of the match. Mortaza then brought on the experienced spin of Shakib, the man searching for the kind of form he is known for, ahead of the skills of young Mustafizur (1-19). The move paid off first ball, as Dilshan’s effort to dominate the spinner was undone by a screamer of a catch from Sarkar. Sarkar celebrated his atonement by kissing the ball, and the effort visibly lifted Bangladesh in the field.
Mortaza’s second masterstroke was to persist with spin once Chandimal was set. Chandimal, who had scored 50 off 39 against the UAE, averages 35.1 vs pace at a strike rate of 120.9. Against spin however, his average drops to 21.6 at 110.5 (over the last 5 years). Sure enough, Chandimal and Jayasuriya (26 off 21) slowed down a bit against Shakib and Mohmudullah, which tipped the required run-rate went over eight. Much credit for this must go to Shakib (2-21), took a lot of pace off the ball, mostly bowling at less than 80 kmph.
The two spinners then removed both players; Chandimal reverse sweeping Mahmudullah straight to deep cover, and Jayasuriya stumped off Shakib. The stumping underlined the experience Mortaza was banking on when he brought Shakib on. Having seen Jayasuriya advance down the pitch the previous ball without covering the line, Shakib bowled a wide to fool him completely.
The wily Mortaza then promptly brought himself and Mustafizur back in an attempt to remove Thisara Perera, who is strong against spin. It also meant that Mortaza had three overs of Mustafizur to bank on in the last seven overs. Mustafizur promptly delivered, not with the cutters Perera must have been expecting, but with a searing full ball to trap him in front. The Bangladeshi skipper and bowling coach Heath Streak certainly seem to have done their homework, and the team stands a great chance of making the final before their last league match against Pakistan on Wednesday.
‘Mystereyfizur’ strikes again:
The rest of the game was the Mustafizur show. He conceded just nine runs in his last two overs, both bowled in the last five of the innings. He showed impeccable control of a host of different deliveries: the yorker, the wide yorker, the bouncer, and his ever dependable un-pickable off cutters. Even though Al-Amin picked up the wickets to close the win, the pressure was exerted by Mustafizur and co at the other end who, quite incredibly, conceded no boundries after the tenth up to the 17th over.
Sri Lanka miss Malinga:
Malinga (4-26) bowled Sri Lanka out of trouble in the last game vs UAE, but much like the Shakti which Karna in the Mahabharata could only use once, his efforts have put his participation in the series in doubt. Still seen limping on the sidelines in Sunday’s game, Sri Lanka are missing not just his bowling at the start, but his variations in the death.
For the last two games, Sri Lanka have fallen into a worrying pattern. After good starts courtesy Chandimal, the inexperienced middle order has fallen away like a bad Jenga game. Against the UAE, they lost seven for 57 in the last ten overs. On Sunday as well, they lost seven for 58 in the last 10. Stand in skipper Angelo Mathews performed admirably with the new ball, but did not stick around with bat. He will need to do so in the next game against the India on Tuesday. The young middle order, tasked with filling some very big shoes, need an experienced head and sure hands to guide them.